I was just listening to Kristen Kalp at Brand Camp talk about Muggle vs. Magic. It really hit home. I have been thinking about chaos and order since my last Mistakes I Made Starting my Business blog post, Accept the Chaos.
In summary she talks about the things we must do as muggle work, from getting dressed to taking care of our bookkeeping. Magic is the heart of what creatives do. I just love the comparison. (My summary doesn’t do her podcast justice so I do really recommend heading to her website.)
My mistake when starting my business was that I didn’t find my calm in the chaos. I just stirred the chaos. I didn’t have any idea about how long it took to do anything related to running a photography business. Earlier I spoke about thinking I’d just work several hours each weekend day, photographing four clients each weekend.
I didn’t sit down and make a list of the tasks that come with each client.
- Finding the clients (marketing)
- Communicating with each client before and after the session
- Editing the photos
- Uploading the photos for sharing
- Blogging the photos – not mandatory but good for marketing and client satisfaction
- Taking their money
In addition to this list, there are the business tasks:
- Setting pricing / packages and creating price lists
- Maintaining photography equipment
- Registering a business and paying taxes
- Networking within the industry
- Learning / attending seminars and conferences
To find order in our chaos we need to realize all the steps that are involved in running a business and have some idea of how much time needs to be devoted to these tasks.
I found out the hard way that editing took way longer than expected. I was shooting way too much at each session and didn’t even know how to use Lightroom. A one hour session would take me 5+ hours to edit. I found myself trying to edit during my little one’s naps and late at night. It didn’t take me long to realize that $100 for a session including files was NOT profitable. Between shooting time, communications, traveling to the sessions, and editing I was at over 10 hours per session.
I’m not going to go into my systems and processes for organizing my business in this post, beyond that I am an Evernote geek, as that is a full long discussion in itself. I think being realistic about the time that is involved in your business, and finding the tools to keep organized is key.
I will tell you, I never did find a way to make portraits session very profitable and very soon after starting focused on weddings. Even my last year in business I was only earning an average of about $350 per session, which wasn’t enough to make up for the time investment. I stopped promoting portraits by year two, but still photographed them by referral on occasion simply because I enjoy doing so.
There are many, many photographers who make a living from portrait photography, but it requires a special skill set business wise, even if you are an incredible photographer. If it’s your dream, go for it, just do your research and figure out how to price, set client expectations first, and manage your time first. Allow yourself to find calm in your chaos.